An Epidemic of Police Racism, Brutality, and Murder

Artists Against Police Brutality

U.S. citizen Kyle Lydell Canty, 30, has applied for refugee status in Canada citing fear of being killed by police.1

In his hearing with Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board on October 23 in Vancouver Canty said, “I’m in fear of my life because I’m black.”

Canty maintained, “This is a well-founded fear.”

Does Canty believe that police in Canada are “racially” color blind or just that it can’t be any worse than in the US?2

Canty’s “well-founded fear” — a fear corroborated by the emergence of Black Lives Matter3 — is the subject of a soon-to-be-released comic book anthology – APB: Artists Against Police Brutality (Rosarium Publishing, 2015) – edited by Bill Campbell, Jason Rodriguez, and John Jennings. (All proceeds go to the Innocence Project.)

APB Artists against Police Brutality 9781495607523APB features comics and short stories by many artists. What comes through viscerally in APB is the fear evoked by police, and it is so much more than fear. It is people targeted because of their skin color or other difference. It is the humiliation of being made a public spectacle on the flimsiest, frequently fallacious, grounds. It is beatings. It is murder that for all intents and purposes is state sanctioned.

Although police are touted by the state as servants and protectors of communities, the fact that they are empowered to use violence sends a message to a wider society. The state is inherently authoritarian, and it will use violence.

It is important to note that violence in its wider sense extends beyond the use of physical force; violence includes the coercive force whereby one realizes that non-compliance will be met with punishment.

APB does not blanket condemn all police, but it does illuminate widespread sadism among police. Given the numerous instances of police brutality,4 policing as an occupation is brought into disrepute. The stigma is such that one might wonder what kind of conscionable police officer would turn a blind eye and work among sadistic colleagues?

APB does not focus on victimhood; it also explores the right to resist police brutality. APB also examines so-called White liberals who try to stifle the right to resist violence by trying to limit the violated group to passive resistance.

The comic “For My Future Child” depicts the humanity of a Black family and how police can strip that humanity away. In “Scared Straight,” an officer finds out what it is like to be on the other end of fear from police violence. Those who dehumanize others wind up dehumanizing themselves.

APB delves into the many facets of racist society: history, capitalism, militarism, schooling, art, medical care, superhero comics, etc.

The comics come in a wide array of styles (sunday comics, action hero, op-ed cartoon, poster) and settings (basketball court to homes to the streets and even to a far-flung galaxy).

Where APB does not go, however, was to the solution. Obviously an end to police brutality is demanded, but how is this to be accomplished?5 Can it be accomplished in contemporary American capitalist society?

I leave the last word on this to one of the APB editors Bill Cameron.

Kim Petersen: What is the solution to police brutality and the police state?

Bill Cameron: That’s a really hard question. The brutal way black folks are treated in this country is very much rooted in laws and customs established in the Chesapeake colony in the mid-1600s, when slave owners decided there was such a thing as “black” people and that they were going to be treated harshly. So, this brutality, this racism is older than the country itself. It’s within the very fabric of this country and affects every aspect of African-Americans’ lives within the public sphere. And police officers (no matter their race) are the foot soldiers who maintain this racist system. It seems to me that to eliminate police brutality, you’d probably have to eliminate racism itself. If you did that, would America be America anymore?

That being said, I look at police brutality as only part of the problem with how the “justice system” treats African-Americans. Even though their own statistics say differently, the police and courts treat black people as though we’re especially dangerous, especially criminal. This bugaboo of theirs has the police overpolicing us, harassing, beating, jailing, and killing us and the courts giving us disproportionate sentences. This, of course, has to change. In the meanwhile, citizens have to continue recording the police, citizens have to keep complaining and holding the police’s feet to the fire, but, most importantly (and this may just be wishful thinking on my part), police have to start facing punishment for their own criminal behavior. I’m not talking just being suspended or fired; they need to face real jail time. When that starts happening, maybe then I’ll believe that police brutality is something we can actually see come to an end.

  1. Chad Pawson, “Black U.S. citizen Kyle Lydell Canty seeking refugee status in Canada,” CBC News, 23 October 2015. []
  2. Certainly in Canada, if one is a darker hued Indigenous person, police don’t hide racism among their members. See my “Land & Jail” series at The Dominion: “Ipperwash, official racism and the future of Ontario,” 23 September 2008. “Part II: Canada’s incarceration strategy,” 5 January 2009. “Part III: Challenging the disproportionate incarceration of First Nations in Canada,” 29 March 2009. []
  3. A movement whose leadership is under question. See interview with Glen Ford at “Is #BlackLivesMatter Supporting U.S. Policy in Syria?” The Real News, 22 October 2015. []
  4. While writing this review another shocking, but all too common instance of police brutality was captured on video in a school against a student. There are reasons for students to have cell phones in schools. See Richard Fausset and Ashley Southall, “Video Shows Officer Flipping Student in South Carolina, Prompting Inquiry,” New York Times, 26 October 2015. []
  5. I take an anarchist perspective and would prefer a society without police. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.